Archive for Braves

The Greatness of Tom Glavine

Every career in the history of baseball, every life that’s ever been lived — they all could’ve turned out differently, unrecognizably differently, given one little change along the way. Sometimes, you have to search for what those changes could’ve been. Other times, they flash in blinding neon. Tom Glavine was born in 1966. In June of 1984, he was drafted by the Atlanta Braves. In June of 1984, he was also drafted by the Los Angeles Kings. The Braves chose him 47th, while the Kings chose him 69th, ahead of some future superstars. There was the opportunity for Glavine to play hockey and go to college for free. He chose, with some difficulty, to go where baseball might lead him. On this day, he’s become all but an official Hall-of-Famer.

Frank Thomas is going into the Hall of Fame. The talent of Frank Thomas was obvious from the beginning. Thomas left no doubt in any observer’s mind that he was one of the best hitters there ever was. Greg Maddux is going into the Hall of Fame. Maddux had plenty of talent, and also the dedication to maximize it. Maddux required a bit of a longer look, but it was immediately apparent he could do things with the baseball others just couldn’t. Tom Glavine is going into the Hall of Fame. Glavine didn’t have Thomas’ gilded skillset, and he didn’t have Maddux’s ability to miss bats and hit gnats. Glavine’s greatest strength was getting something extraordinary out of considerably duller parts.

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The Braves’ Good Problem

Last week, Grant Brisbee made the very salient point that the Atlanta Braves are essentially akin to a small-market team these days. Since the ballclub has stacked their team with homegrown talent, this has not been a glaring problem in years past, but this offseason we have seen them lose both Brian McCann and Tim Hudson. Which was bad, in a sense — the team has replacements at the ready, even if they might not be as good.

The real problem though — and it is no doubt a good problem — will come two-to-three years down the road. Justin Upton, Jason Heyward and Kris Medlen are set to become free agents following the 2015 season, and the next season, Freddie Freeman and Craig Kimbrel (and Brandon Beachy) are also due to become free agents. It’s pretty unlikely that the ballclub will be able to keep all five (or six, if you count Beachy). So, who should they keep?

Looking at the team’s contract situation, let’s say that they can keep three of the five. That sort of feels right. They will have three $10 million-plus contracts this year: the Upton brothers and Dan Uggla. Uggla’s contract will mercifully end at the same point that that the first trio will be up for free agency. Heading into their respective free agent seasons, this is how old they will be:

Freeman: 2017, Age 27
Heyward: 2016, Age 26
Kimbrel: 2017, Age 29
Medlen: 2016, Age 30
Upton: 2016, Age 28

The first thing that sticks out is that these guys are all very young for possibly hitting free agency. Players that age don’t often hit the free-agent market anymore. If you go back to Keith Law’s top 50 free agents from November, only 12 were under the age of 30. Two of them were Asian international free agents, two others were ranked 47th and 50th, and one was a former Braves player (McCann). It just doesn’t happen that desirable players make it to free agency this young. So, before we start in, kudos to the Braves and their player development system for accruing such talent.

Speaking in absolutes is rarely a good idea when it comes to things that have yet to occur, and that is even more true in a situation where we are years removed from a necessary decision. So we’ll just go with pros and cons for now. And even though they don’t all hit free agency in the same year, we’ll treat them as the same, because realistically the Braves will have to decide who to keep and who not to keep well ahead of them reaching free agency.

– Durability. Freeman has played in at least 147 games in each of his first three seasons, and 93% overall. That’s always a good thing.
– Hard Contact. The more line drives a player hits, the better off he’ll be, and Freeman excels in this area. In his three full major league seasons, he ranks ninth among qualified players in line drive percentage (25.2%). Over the past two seasons, only Joey Votto and James Loney have roped a greater percentage of line drives than has Freeman.
– Defense. Freeman has always had a good defensive reputation, and last year that reputation finally matched up with the metrics, as he posted his first season with both a positive DRS and UZR.
– Swing rate. Freeman has improved his BB/K in each of his full seasons, but last season his swing rate went up. He swung at four percent more pitches out of the strike zone, and 3.6% more overall. That wouldn’t be so bad necessarily, had his contact rate gone up in kind, but it didn’t. Freeman actually lowered his strikeout rate last year. This means one of two things — either Freeman is able to tow the line of swinging and missing more frequently but not actually striking out, or his luck is about to change. Given the fact that he hit .198/.265/.282 with two strikes last season, I’m going to suggest that it’s the latter.
– Power. Freeman’s ISO is still relatively middling for a first baseman. Last season, his .181 ISO was a mere five points above the league average for a first baseman. From 2012-2013, he ranked 12th out of 23 in qualified first baseman ISO. If you lower the qualification to 500 plate appearances, Freeman’s rank drops to 22nd, as players like Brandon Moss, Mike Napoli and Mark Teixeira jump over Freeman on the list.

– Youth. Seriously, players really don’t hit free agency this young these days. It’s kind of amazing that he could enter the market heading into his age-26 season.
– Defense. Heyward is one of the biggest plus defenders in the majors during his time in the Show. Since 2010, the only two players with a better UZR/150 than Heyward are Manny Machado and Nolan Arenado, and neither of them even have half the innings played that Heyward does (Arenado barely has one-fourth the innings played).
– Strikeout rate. Last season, Heyward cut his strikeout rate by nearly seven percent. Even if he doesn’t retain all of those gains, it wasn’t a total mirage. He swung less and made contact more. That’s a recipe for success, and it was borne out in his higher line drive rate.
– Durability. Shoulder, neck, abdomen, foot, knee, thumb. Heyward can have a pass for the appendix, and again for fracturing his jaw on a hit by pitch. He really didn’t have any control over those things. But he still seems to come down with a lot of owwies. He’s failed to reach 130 games played in two of the past three seasons, and his health will remain a question until he strings a couple of full seasons together.
– Speed. Heyward’s speed vanished last year. His Speed Score, as calculated in these internet pages, dropped from 6.2 to 3.2. He followed up his one good season of UBR with one that looked a lot like his first two seasons, and his wSB dropped into the red. His stolen base percentage for his career is a less-than-optimal 68%, and last year he was only successful on two of his six stolen-base attempts.

– Filth. Most pitchers don’t reach pitch values of 10 or higher on one pitch. Kimbrel has come incredibly close to doing so in three straight seasons, and he did do it last season.
– Grounders. Over the past two seasons, Kimbrel has struck out nearly 44 percent of the batters he has faced. Of those who were able to put the ball in play, nearly 50% of them hit ground balls.
– Velocity. Kimbrel has not only not lost juice on his fastball, he’s actually gained a few ticks. That won’t last forever of course, but his decline might be softer as a result of his ability to maintain his velocity these first three seasons.
– Consistency. Kimbrel is the only relief pitcher to post at least 2 WAR in each of the past three seasons.
– He’s a reliever. There are a very few relievers who have proved worthy of long-term extensions, so Kimbrel is fighting an uphill battle just by the nature of his role.
– Contact rate. Last year, batters were able to make contact off of Kimbrel much more easily than they had in the past. His contact rate was still one of the 10 lowest among qualifiers, and his strikeout rate was still one of the five highest. But Kimbrel was not head and shoulders above the rest of the game the way he was in previous seasons.
– Zone percentage. In three of his four seasons in the majors, Kimbrel has had a below-average zone percentage. Last year, he threw the fewest pitches in the strike zone yet. He doesn’t have the best control going, and if his K rate keeps declining along with his zone percentage, Kimbrel may just lose his edge.

– Control. Of the 86 pitchers with at least 300 innings pitched over the past two seasons, Medlen’s 5.2% walk rate is essentially tied for 10th-best.
– Deception. Medlen is able to live in the strike zone and maintain that good control because of his ability to consistently fool hitters. Last season, the only pitchers who were able to generate a higher percentage of whiffs per swing via the changeup than Medlen were Jarrod Parker and Stephen Strasburg. And there was a big gap between Medlen in third and Cole Hamels in fourth. Since the changeup is Medlen’s second-most frequently thrown pitch, that’s an important fact.

– Injury concerns. Medlen has now tossed 337.1 innings since returning from Tommy John surgery, which means he is already nearing the end of his honeymoon phase. By the time 2016 rolls around, if Medlen hasn’t succumbed to a second Tommy John surgery, he’ll likely be very close.
– Velocity. Since 2008 (when PITCHf/x began stabilizing), there have been 445 pitchers who have been both 27-years-old or younger and have tossed at least 100 innings in a season. Of them, only 45 have failed to average 89 mph on their four-seam fastballs, and of those, just 21 have been right-handers. Here is that list:

Name Season IP vFA
Carlos Villanueva 2011 107.0 88.9
Kris Medlen 2013 197.0 88.9
A.J. Griffin 2013 200.0 88.8
Jeff Karstens 2009 108.0 88.8
Brian Bannister 2008 182.2 88.8
Jered Weaver 2009 211.0 88.7
Kevin Correia 2008 110.0 88.7
Micah Owings 2009 119.2 88.6
Kyle McClellan 2011 141.2 88.4
Carlos Villanueva 2008 108.1 88.4
Doug Fister 2010 171.0 88.3
Darrell Rasner 2008 113.1 88.1
Mike Fiers 2012 127.2 88.0
Josh Tomlin 2011 165.1 88.0
Dylan Axelrod 2013 128.1 87.9
John Ely 2010 100.0 87.3
Josh Collmenter 2011 154.1 87.2
Andy Sonnanstine 2008 193.1 87.1
Jeremy Bonderman 2010 171.0 87.0
Shaun Marcum 2008 151.1 87.0
Josh Geer 2009 102.2 86.1

A quick scan of this list makes it very apparent that it is not an enviable one. Aside from Medlen, Jered Weaver and Doug Fister are pitchers who one would consider signing to a long-term deal, though Weaver may be somewhat of a cautionary tale. The velocity on his four-seamer dipped under 87 mph last year, according to PITCHf/x, and probably not coincidentally, his ERA and FIP rose for the second-straight season (actually, his FIP rose for the third-straight season). Medlen will be as old when he hits free agency as Weaver was last season, so if that’s what Medlen’s future is, that’s probably not a good sign.

– Lack of holes. Upton is pretty good at everything. He’s got a good batting eye, both his walk rate and swing rates are above average. He has good power as well. Both his isolated power and slugging percentages are above league average for a right fielder. His basestealing isn’t amazing, but he is over the 70% mark for stolen-base success, and over the past three seasons, his 13.1 BsR ranks 10-best in the game. He also hits every pitch well. For his career, he has positive values per 100 pitches on every pitch except the knuckleball, and he probably hasn’t seen enough knuckleballs for that to matter.
– Pain tolerance. While there are plenty of injury issues in his timeline, none of them kept him out of the lineup for very long. He played through a thumb injury in 2012 to the detriment of his statistics, and while the other issues have not been as severe, it seems likely that he has played through things that other players would not have. He has only missed 28 games over the past three seasons.
Price. Of the five players on this list, Upton might end up being the most expensive, simply because he is already far more expensive. Upton will earn more than $14 million during each of the next two seasons, so it’s hard to imagine that he would accept an extension that paid him less than that. The Braves can certainly afford to pay him a little more than that, and he should remain that valuable, at least in the short-term, but in comparison to the other five players, it puts him at a disadvantage.

Taking the situation as a whole, it seems that as of right now, Freeman and Heyward are the two you would look to lock up first. You do what you need to in order to get those deals done, particularly with Heyward. From there, things get more murky. Upton probably will be worth keeping around, but the price may not be right for Atlanta. Kimbrel may be a luxury for a team that has consistently churned out quality pitchers for two decades, and Medlen’s velocity needs to be monitored. History tells us it will dip, and when it does, so too may his effectiveness. And finally, there’s Beachy. Thanks to his shoddy health track record, he doesn’t merit much discussion at this time, but if he proves capable of being both healthy and effective over the next two seasons, the Braves will have a difficult decision to make with him entering 2016 as well.

In all, this is a good problem to have. Every team wants to have this kinds of problem, and it’s a credit to the Braves front office that they are in a position where they may be forced to pick which of their young assets they want to lock up. Unfortunately for Atlanta, their now-more-obvious budgetary restrictions leave them less margin for error.

Trading Ryan Doumit and the Possible End of an Era

There was what seems like a relatively unremarkable trade today, that went down between the Braves and the Twins. The Twins sent to the Braves one Ryan Doumit, in the last year of his contract. The Braves sent to the Twins one Sean Gilmartin, 23 years old and still in the minors. Doumit is expected to fill some kind of role on Atlanta’s bench. Gilmartin might be a Twins starting rotation candidate down the road. It’s a competitive team maybe exchanging a little longer-term value for a little shorter-term value, and it’s a rebuilding team doing the opposite of that. Perfectly understandable, ordinary trade that does very little to capture the imagination.

There might be something buried here, though, beneath the immediate layers. Something nothing more than statistical, but then numbers are so much of everything. It depends on how Doumit ends up being utilized by the Braves, but there’s a chance this could mark the end of an era, beyond just the era of Doumit playing for Minnesota. On the surface, the trade is mildly interesting. Below the surface, it’s a little bit more so.

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The Uptons and Making Contact

Earlier this year, Bill Petti mentioned in his CLIFFORD work the single largest driver in a player’s wOBA collapse from one year to the next was Z-Contact%. Players that saw their Z-Contact% decline by at least 1.4% had a 1.68 times the odds of seeing their wOBA collapse that season than those that did not experience such a decline.

As with any correlation, nothing is a guarantee. Just because a player improves or declines with any one statistic does not guarantee that the results will behave in lockstep. The five players who saw their Z-Contact% improve the most in 2013 were Gerardo Parra, Everth Cabrera, Brandon Moss, Carlos Santana, and David Murphy. Parra, Cabrera, and Santana saw their wOBA improve by 1, 38, and 20 points respectively while Moss and Murphy’s dropped 33 and 80 points.

It was equally volatile on the other end of the scale. Raul Ibanez‘s Z-Contact% dropped 5.3%, yet his wOBA improved by 19 points. Chris Young‘s Z-Contact% dropped 6.2% from 2012 to 2013 as his wOBA dropped 36 points.  Marlon Byrd‘s 6.7% decrease was the third-largest decrease in Z-Contact% in the sample size, yet his wOBA improved an amazing 148 points last season. The two largest declines in Z-Contact% from 2012 to 2013 had one thing in common – a last name.

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2014 ZiPS Projections – Atlanta Braves

After having typically appeared in the entirely venerable pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections were released at FanGraphs last year. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Atlanta Braves. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Other Projections: Boston / Cleveland / Philadelphia / St. Louis.

Of some interest this offseason will be how various projection systems attend to the quite possibly anomalous Chris Johnson. With nearly 2,000 major-league plate appearances now recorded, Atlanta’s third baseman has a career BABIP of .361 — i.e. about the highest figure one will find from any batter with a sample of that magnitude. ZiPS projects Johnson to record a .338 BABIP in 2014; Oliver and Steamer, .345 and .342, respectively.

Johnson will rely on his batted-ball profile to remain even an average player in 2014, however, it appears. ZiPS projects him to post something between one and two wins — a roughly equivalent total to fellow infielder Dan Uggla, whose 2013 campaign was much less successful. Both players are projected to post nearly league-average offensive lines. Rather, it’s their defensive shortcomings for which they suffer most significantly.

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Very Final Statistical Report for the Arizona Fall League

The author has published a weekly statistical report for the Arizona Fall League each week since its brief season commenced back in October — not necessarily because such a thing is of great utility to prospect analysis, but more because, for those of us not currently present in the Greater Phoenix area, it’s one of the few ways to participate in that very compelling league.

What follows is the entirely last statistical report for the AFL, following that league’ championship game this past Saturday.

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2013 Disabled List Team Data

The 2013 season was a banner season for players going on the disabled list. The DL was utilized 2,538 times, which was 17 more than the previous 2008 high. In all, players spent 29,504 days on the DL which is 363 days more than in 2007. Today, I take a quick look at the 2013 DL data and how it compares to previous seasons.

To get the DL data, I used MLB’s Transaction data. After wasting too many hours going through the data by hand, I have the completed dataset available for public consumption.  Enjoy it, along with the DL data from previous seasons. Finally, please let me know of any discrepancies so I can make any corrections.

With the data, it is time to create some graphs. As stated previously, the 2013 season set all-time marks in days lost and stints. Graphically, here is how the data has trended since 2002:

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Almost Not Premature Stat Report on the Arizona Fall League

Over the past two weeks, the author has published an entirely premature statistical report and then a slightly less premature one of those for the Arizona Fall League — not necessarily because such a thing is of great utility to prospect analysis, but more because, for those of us not currently present in the Greater Phoenix area, it’s one of the few ways to participate in that very compelling league. Moreover, it can serve as a pretense upon which to discuss participants in that league, not unlike Atlanta’s Thomas La Stella.

What follows, then — sans both apology and expertise — is the third edition of this site’s weekly AFL statistical report.

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Turning to Freddy Garcia With the Season on the Line

Tonight, the Atlanta Braves will play the Dodgers with their season on the line. Down 2-1 in the NLDS, the Braves have to win tonight just to force a Game 5 — which would match them up against Clayton Kershaw again, so, yeah, this isn’t a great situation — and are turning to Freddy Garcia in this win-or-go-home game. Yes, the Freddy Garcia who turned 37 yesterday, and has had a season that could charitably be described as adventurous.

He went to spring training with the Padres on a minor league deal, but was cut loose after getting bombed on a regular basis in the Cactus League. The Orioles signed him to a minor league contract a few days later and gave him a month in Triple-A before calling him up at the beginning of May. He responded by throwing 50 disastrous innings, including a 5.77 ERA and 6.73 FIP, which got him sent back to Triple-A at the beginning of July. He hung out in the minors for a few months until the Braves picked him up at the end of August and brought him back to the big leagues when rosters expanded in September.

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Does the Braves’ Stuff Work in the Playoffs?

“We know we’re going to strike out. That’s just a given with guys who have power. And we have a lot of guys who can hit the ball out of the park. And that kind of goes hand in hand. But you look at some of the studies — and our guys have looked at them — and there’s not a direct correlation with strikeouts and offense.”

— Atlanta general manager Frank Wren, interviewed by Jayson Stark on 2/18/13

This quote comes from Alex Remington’s piece on these very pages back in April. When the Braves finished constructing their roster — a roster similar to what we see now — there were questions as to whether the team would strike out too much to make a run at the postseason. Well, we’ve now reached the postseason, and the Braves are still here. And they’re still striking out too, averaging over 10 Ks a game so far. They also led the NL in home runs, an achievement they were expected to sniff given their lineup. This was kind of the plan from the beginning — strike out a fair amount, but counter that with a good deal of power.

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Jansen and Kimbrel and Sharing the Summit

A little under an hour east of here, rising behind one of the world’s largest free-standing natural monoliths, there lies a peak known as Hamilton Mountain. The trail up passes by a breathtaking waterfall and breathstopping cliffs, and the summit affords magnificent views of the Columbia River Gorge and the Cascade peaks towering beyond. As you head out from the trailhead, there’s only one way to go, passing through shrubs and underneath power lines before entering a forest. Soon, though, one arrives at a junction. There are two paths and a sign with arrows, reading “Difficult” and “More Difficult.” The choice is up to the hiker, but no matter which way you pick, you’re going to get to the top.

Mariano Rivera is retiring, which is going to allow us to re-visit the question of who is the game’s best closer. Not that we couldn’t address the question before, but Rivera was the default response, and sometimes people got emotional if you went another way. Now Rivera has removed himself from the pool, and there’s a small host of current candidates to take his place. Among them are Atlanta’s Craig Kimbrel and Los Angeles’ Kenley Jansen, and statistically it can be hard to tell the two apart. Remarkably, they occupy very similar planes. Remarkably, they get there along two very different paths.

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Analyzing the Umpires: NLDS Edition

It is time to look at the third team on the field for the National League division round, the umpires. Each umpire is given a quick look to see if they have any unique strike calling patterns. Also, I posted their 2013 K/9 and BB/9 rates which I scaled them to the league average strikeout and walk rates. A 100 value is league average and a 110 value would be a value 10% higher than the average. Additionally, I added images of their called strike zones verses right and left handed hitters (from catchers perspective) compared to the league average. The scale is the percentage difference where -0.1 means 10% points less than the league average

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On Winning the Right to Not Play the Dodgers

With one weekend left in the regular season, there are some important things still at stake. In the American League wild-card race, for example, the Rangers are still alive, one back of the Indians and two back of the Rays. The Pirates and the Reds will go head-to-head, basically to decide who gets home field in next week’s likely one-game playoff. And the Braves and Cardinals will figure out who finishes with the National League’s best record. They’re not about to play one another, but they’re each about to play three games, and the team with the best record will face the not-Dodgers in the NLDS.

And that would be nice, since the Dodgers have gone 61-26 since they started 30-42. Right now, the Braves and the Cardinals have the same record. The Braves, also, hold the tiebreaker, having won the season series against St. Louis, so at this point we’re looking at Braves vs. wild card and Cardinals vs. Dodgers. But it’s not set in stone, so, clearly, the teams have something left to play for as they prepare for October. No team would ever admit it’s afraid of another team, but the Dodgers don’t look like a favorable draw.

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A Replacement-Level Andrelton Simmons

I’ve been pretty busy. I wonder what Andrelton Simmons has been up to of late? Most of my attention is dedicated to the actual races. Let’s go ahead and take a quick peek over at Simmons’ video highlight page. What’s the most recent clip look like? Cool, it’s from just a couple days ago. Looks like a defensive play against the Marlins. I’ll stream it, and — ooh, slow chopper off the bat. Batter got badly jammed. You’re telling me Simmons turned this into some kind of out?


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Is Andrelton Simmons Having the Best Defensive Season Ever?

You saw this post’s headline before you read this sentence. The headline’s a question, so you probably answered it. I’m guessing your answer is, “probably not, no.” Or maybe it’s, “well we have no way of possibly knowing.” Or maybe it’s both. And that’s perfectly fair — we don’t have any way of possibly knowing for sure, and there was a lot of baseball before 2013 Andrelton Simmons. But if you’re reading this post anyway, it means you’re curious. And curiosity requires an open mind. You’re willing to consider the possibility that Simmons is having the best defensive season ever, and that might say enough on its own.

The other day, Jose Iglesias did something amazing, and I wrote about it. I don’t think it’s the greatest defensive play by a shortstop I’ve ever seen, but a full write-up felt appropriate, given Iglesias’ reputation and given his importance to a contending Tigers team with the rest of the Tigers’ defensive infield. Eventually, it had to be noted that no matter how good we think Iglesias might be, there’s already an Andrelton Simmons. Iglesias, this year, has been a good shortstop for 318 innings. Simmons has been a good shortstop for more than a thousand. Iglesias is going to be hard-pressed to emerge as the best defensive shortstop in baseball, because Simmons pushes sensibility to the extremes, and with his 2013 in particular, we have to wonder: how does this stack up? Where does this season fit in all-time?

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The Atlanta Braves and the Two-Month Victory Lap

Monday night in Washington, the Braves beat Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals by a 3-2 score. The beginning of the Nationals’ game recap reads so casually you almost skip right over the astonishing part and miss the absurdity. Quote:

WASHINGTON — The Nationals entered Monday night with nine chances remaining to cut directly into the Braves’ 12 1/2-game lead in the National League East. They wasted the first of those chances in the opener of a three-game series, as Justin Upton‘s go-ahead solo home run in the eighth inning lifted Atlanta to a 3-2 victory.

Braves in first, check. Nationals with chances left, check. Nationals with a blown chance, check. Twelve and a half games. Wait. Now thirteen and a half games. Because the Braves won. The number is inserted as if the gap isn’t completely ridiculous. The number is inserted as if Nationals fans ought to be holding out hope.

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Chris Johnson and Great Players

Sometimes, to get a batting champion, you have to pay a steep price. Right now, Miguel Cabrera is blowing away the competition in the American League, to such an extent that it’s hardly a competition at all. The Tigers, of course, couldn’t be more thrilled that he’s on their side, but when they got him, they had to have some doubts. And sometimes, to get a batting champion, you can make a move that people hardly notice. The leader in the National League right now is Chris Johnson, batting .342. Johnson didn’t even begin the year as an everyday player.

Johnson went from the Diamondbacks to the Braves as part of a much larger deal. The key, everybody understood, was Atlanta’s acquisition of potential superstar Justin Upton. This was the conclusion of the Justin Upton sweepstakes. To this point, Upton has been worth 1.6 WAR. A big part of Arizona’s return was the solid and underrated Martin Prado. To this point, Prado has been worth 0.4 WAR. Johnson went to Atlanta and people didn’t notice. To this point, he has been worth 1.9 WAR. He was worth more than a third of that in July.

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Braves Acquire Scott Downs For Basically Nothing

It’s bullpen upgrade day. A few hours after the Tigers added Jose Veras, the Braves got the lefty reliever they’ve been hunting for, landing Scott Downs from the Angels, and they got him for what amounts to a hill of beans.

Working against Downs’ value was his age (37), his contract (remainder of $5M salary), and his splits (basically a LOOGY at this point). Adding a couple of million in payroll for a guy who is probably a situational reliever at this point in his career seems to have been enough to scare off most bidders, because the Braves only had to give up reliever Cory Rasmus to get him.

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Getting Strikes on the Edge

The last time I wrote about Edge% it was in the context of the Tampa Bay Rays using it to get their pitchers into more favorable counts on 1-1. But now I want to take that topic and drill a little deeper to understand how often edge pitches are taken for called strikes.

Overall, pitches taken on the edge are called strikes 69% of the time. But that aggregate measure hides some pretty substantial differences. Going further on that idea, I wanted to see how the count impacts the likelihood of a pitch on the edge being called a strike.

Here are the results:

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Overreactions and Doubling Down: Lessons from Jeff Francoeur

I know a lot of you loved this guy, so this thread is a place for you all to say goodbye…

Jeff Francoeur always seemed destined to be a Kansas City Royal. Even when he was a Georgia-born-and-raised Atlanta prospect, he was always destined to be a Royal. Sort of. It seems as if very early on Dayton Moore’s tenure as General Manager of the Royals, Joe Posnanski was predicting that Moore, who played a big part in Francoeur’s drafting and development when Moore worked for Atlanta, would find a way to acquire The Natural.

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